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Why these potatoes cost $860 a kilo

Lucy Dean
A composite image of Sean Astin depicting Samwise Gamgee in the film, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and an image of La Bonnotte potatoes being harvested. Images: Île de Noirmoutier, New Line Cinema
Who knows what Samwise Gamgee would think. Images: Île de Noirmoutier, New Line Cinema

Foil to forces of evil, steadfast friend and notorious gardener, Samwise Gamgee famously described potatoes as the everyman of starches.

“Po-ta-toes! Boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew. Lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish," he enthused.

What Gamgee forgot, however, is that some of them cost $858 a kilo.

That’s right.

This particular type of potato, La Bonnotte, is grown on the French island of Noirmoutier and is the most expensive type of potato in the world.

Having reached heights of around US$600 per kilo (AU$860), La Bonnotte potatoes are harvested three months after planting and picked before they reach maturity. Selling at auction in 1996, they reached US$500 per pound - or US$1,201 per kilo (AU$1,722).

Only 100 of the 10,000 tonnes of potatoes harvested on the island are La Bonnotte - a major element contributing to the spud’s eye-watering prices.

Then there’s the fact that these potatoes need to picked one by one and manually, as the potato is so delicate.

It means that during the potato’s seven-day harvest season, around 2,500 pickets are set to work, Fine Dining Lovers reports.

And, according to CNN’s Great Big Story, the sale of the potatoes is only 10 days’ long.

The potatoes are especially delicious because of the sandy soil in which they are grown, the director of the potato cooperative, Nicolas Paille told Great Big Story. That’s compounded by the seaweed placed in the oil to encourage the potatoes to grow.

“It’s an artisanal job; the producers are proud to do it, and that’s what makes it so valuable,” Paille said.

What does it taste like?

There’s a slight lemon taste, and according to Paille, also a chestnut flavour which comes from the iodine in the seaweed.

The prized taters don’t always have to break the bank, either. British supermarket Tesco began selling La Bonnotte variety potatoes in 2011. While not grown on the island, the potatoes were harvested and grown in the same way, and sold for a much cheaper £1.99 (AU$3.62) for a 750g bag.

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